Left In Lowell

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October 18, 2012

Wherefor Art Thou Climate Change?

by at 9:45 am.

Whatever your political stripe, if you are an environmentalist you are probably disappointed in this year’s presidential and downticket races. Of course, it’s natural that the economy would be high up on the radar for the candidates, but for there to be zero talk about the environment, not to mention global climate change, the biggest national security risk of our time? It is, to make an understatement, utterly incomprehensible.

I am definitely going to watch this Frontline next Tuesday, “Climate of Doubt.” In it, they will examine the reasons why this topic has become persona non grata. Where once we as a nation were starting to agree that climate change was happening and that we needed to address it, there is doubt being raised by the extremely profitable industries that benefit from the status quo.



Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

There are a lot of people frustrated by the fact that record low summer Arctic sea ice, and other serious indicators of global climate change, have not even had a murmur at the debates, or even on the stump. Charlie Pierce:

But climate change is an issue that has become an orphan in this campaign because it is simply too big for our political system to handle. The planet, quite simply, is dying of a fever, and everybody can see the symptoms, and everybody who isn’t Jim Inhofe or some other mountain troll knows precisely what the cause is. But not even this president, for all his besotted devotion to green technologies, can talk straight to the American people about what is murdering the earth and why.

Wildfires. Superstorms. Drought. The fact that there actually is a Northwest Passage through the Arctic from the Atlantic to the Pacific now. The warnings get more and more dire. Yet we have had three debates and the simple question of how we keep from killing the planet never comes up? Future historians — if there are any future historians — are going to drink very heavily.

We are probably past the point of no return, but fast action could preserve much of our societies’ future. Charley of BMG had a rant that included a link to this statement by 11 of the world’s largest engineering orgs, who believe we, right now and currently, have enough technology to get 85% off of carbon fuels by 2050.

The statement says that generating electricity from wind, waves and the sun, growing biofuels sustainably, zero emissions transport, low carbon buildings and energy efficiency technologies have all been demonstrated. However they are not being developed for wide-scale use fast enough and there is a desperate need for financial and legislative support from governments around the world if they are to fulfil their potential.

We went to the moon. We stood on the moon! The technology to do so didn’t even exist when the lunar program started, and we still did it! For addressing climate change, a lot of what we need is right in front of us. All we need is communal incentives, and funding, and we can do this!

And not only that, but it’s great economic sense too. Lots of decent paying jobs you can’t outsource. New manufacturing techniques to implement here at home, in which to become a leader. Better, more breathable air and drinkable water. We can stop blasting the tops off of our mountains and clogging the rivers and streams with toxic slag. We can stop fracking and making drinking water flammable. We can stop drilling for oil in off shore rigs that can blow up and leak and destroy habitats and commercial fishing, stop building pipelines that pollute our land, and stop hurting our national treasures like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Farmers in the Midwest can farm and at the same time, lease their lands for wind power. They make more money and we get clean energy! Every home can be buttoned up and become more efficient, adding demand for contractors and hence, jobs, to our economy. We can all get solar on our roofs and help generate electricity for ourselves. We can save money. We can stop funding dictatorships and terrorists with our oil dollars. We can stop going to war over oil.

Here. at the intersection of innovation and policy, there is a vision - an environmental, economic, and foreign policy vision, for a future where we are more independent, with good paychecks and clean water. And yet, we’ve even stopped having the argument about whether global climate change exists. It’s dropped off the map entirely.

Another four years ignoring the vast problems…and vast opportunities…sitting in front of us is just not acceptable. How many coastal cities do we want to lose? How many more powerful storms do we want to live through? How many more severe droughts, how many more severe floods and fires do we want to accept before we take action?

These are the questions I wish the next moderator would ask. These are the questions I wish you were asking your elected officials. What we do in the next decade affects your children and grandchildren for all time. Where is the leadership?

4 Responses to “Wherefor Art Thou Climate Change?”

  1. joe from Lowell Says:

    It’s worth pointing out that the Obama administration has been quietly pursuing serious efforts to combat climate change - regulating carbon, issuing robust Clean Air Act regulations that are shutting down coal-fired power plants, jacking up the CAFE standards, putting a ton of Recovery Act money into alternative energy, pushing green building practices, funding public transit alternatives - even though he isn’t selling them primarily as climate change efforts.

    Also, we can, indeed, stop polluting water supplies by fracking for natural gas. Specifically, we can start regulating fracking operations much more stringently, so that they don’t pollute. Nonetheless, ramping up natural gas usage to move us away from oil and, especially, coal is an absolutely necessary step in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The United States had the largest reduction in carbon emissions of any country on the planet in 2011, and most of that reduction came from shutting down coal plants and replacing them with gas plants. Getting off of fossil fuels entirely (or anything close to it) is a generational project, and we need to shut down the coal-fired power plants yesterday. For now, gas has to be part of the answer.

  2. Lynne Says:

    I do agree, NG has a place in getting us carbon free, since the difference in carbon emissions from coal/oil is drastically higher than NG. However, how they got away this long without being regulated so they can stop poisoning underground water supplies is beyond me…

  3. C R Krieger Says:

    Separating extraction issues from CAGW, I think issues continue to be raised about CAGW, including from the UK Met Office (Full, full disclosure, I used there then central computer for some problem solving 38 years ago.  At the time I thought it was amazing.)

    We need more work on alternative energy solutions.  The wind turbine farms out in the Inland Empire have not been the roaring success I would have hoped for.  A lot of this is an engineering problem and more engineering needs to be done.

    On the social engineering level, do we lower our standard of living to help the rest of the world or do we help them raise their standard of living?  For example, the US Human Development Index is 0.910 (close to the top), but Rwanda’s is 0.429, and not the bottom.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  4. joe from Lowell Says:

    Cliff,

    We do both. We develop clean alternative energy sources so that our own standard of living will improve, and so that countries like Rwanda will be able to develop without having to fight for increasingly scarce, increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

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